The Sacred Elephant

For thousands of years

A majestic giant has graced our lands

It’s the gigantic elephant known to all peoples

We find its symbol in India, China, Africa,

And even America, as the Republican Party

 

In India the elephant is known to Buddhists

And Hindus as the god Ganesha –

defender and maintainer of good fortune

China, this symbol brings good luck, protection, and fertility

And in Africa the elephant is the mighty one

Because of its strength and power

 

But this gentle giant that exists in mythology – is patient,

responsible, wise, clever, and smart

In the wild it cares for the herd and offspring

And nestles its young in loving ways

 

Let’s elevate this admirable giant

To a greater place of prominence in our world

For this animal’s symbol continues to grace the earth

With divine, pure, and secular gifts

Depicted in artworks, sculptures, and paintings

 

Indians pay their elephant-god Ganesha homage with gifts

The Chinese sing praises with its happiness

Africans see the elephant like a fortress in the jungle

And Americans embrace this symbol as a political party

By the cartoonist Thomas Nast of Harper’s Weekly magazine

 

 

 

St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897)

St. Thérèse of Lisieux in her autobiography Story of a Soul translated by John Clarke, taught believers “the little way” of trust and absolute surrender to God.  The first 15 years of her life was spent as a devout Catholic and for nine years she lived a cloistered life as a Carmelite nun.  She wrote the story of her brief life in ink with no thought that it would ever be published.  On Good Friday, April 13, 1896 she suffered her first hemoptysis (coughing up blood due to a lung hemorrhage).

The facsimile edition of her manuscript was difficult to read because of capitalizations, underlined words, size, position of slant letters, with occasional corrections.  Students of hers were still able to locate texts in the original manuscript.  The translated version however offered clear themes of love, abandonment to God’s mercy, and mission in the church.  She saw the way of spiritual childhood as the path which led to eternal life.

Manuscript & Readers

In fits and starts, St. Thérèse wrote in her spare time while she was ill.  The manuscript first published in 1898 in a highly edited version was praised by its readers.  It became a spiritual classic, read by millions, and was translated from French into other languages.  For over 20 years, it was a best seller.  Story of a Soul was originally the collection of three different manuscripts addressed to different persons in 1895, 1896, and 1897.

St. Thérèse’s legacy to the world was her personal message about being like “little ones.”  Her teachings came out of human experiences.  To accomplish these tasks she ascended to the summit of heroic virtue – what she described as “my vocation is love.”  She believed we must be like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and viewed God as the keeper of “little ones.”

Beatification & Canonization

During the process of beatification and canonization Pope Benedict XV, and Pius X1 endorsed her beliefs.  They hoped her teachings would be brought to the attention of the world.  St. Thérèse, who was considered the greatest saint of modern times frequently meditated on the Gospels and the Old Testament.  Her work has remained a source of deep religious inspiration, and believers think it came about through Divine Providence.  The centennial celebration of her death was in 1996 – 1997.  Story of a Soul’s translator, John Clarke, was a devotee to this “Little Flower.”

 

Saint Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)

Navin Chawla, author of Mother Teresa did a remarkable job in capturing the love and sensitivity of one of Christianity’s modern icons. She was born on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, Yugoslavia, and in 1979, as a Catholic religious sister was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Mother Teresa received the Call of God at the young age of 18, and decided to leave her home to become a nun in India. Her vocation was serving the poor. On January 16, 1929, she went to the mountain resort of Darjeeling, 400 miles north of Calcutta, to begin a life as a novice. Two years later, she took her first vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. At Loretto – Entally she was a teacher and Principal.

Early Life

By the early 1940s Chawla showed how Mother Teresa met poverty in the Great Bengal Famine which stalked India. Indians were starving, sorrowful, and lying lifelessly on the streets. And shortly after, she got another “Call within a Call,” to begin a second vocation, to serve “the poorest of the poor.” She therefore had to get permission to leave her cloistered life in the convent to work in the streets of Calcutta. The author documented struggles with her spiritual confessor Father Celeste Van Exem, her bishop, and the Vatican. Fortunately for the world, Mother Teresa prevailed, and permission was granted to do work among poor souls.

In this new vocation as advocate, healer, and provider for “the poorest of the poor,” she was joined by some young women, some of whom were formerly students, to do such work. By the 1950s with some medical training under her belt she headed the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The author described the travels of her sisters to be with the poor all over the world. They walked or took public transportation to their assignments in India. There was however a Motherhouse – a headquarter to coordinate their operations.

Mother Teresa pledged to take the unwanted babies of the world. Her Missionaries of Charity continued to give out hundreds for adoption. Her views on abortion had many detractors, for she advocated natural family planning which involved abstention of couples, and the exercise of self-control. She had implicit faith in the Roman Catholic doctrine and wanted to bring prayer back into people’s lives. Later, Chawla vividly explained Pope Paul V1, 1965 visit to India as a guest of the government. The Lincoln Continental limousine he used for his state visit was later donated to Mother Teresa’s charities. It was raffled off for a tidy sum with which she built a main hospital block in Shantinagar.

Humanitarian Activities Abroad

Mother Teresa’s humanitarian facilities presently included dispensaries, leprosy clinics, rehabilitation centers, homes for the abandoned – crippled, mentally retarded, unwed mothers, sick, dying destitute, and AIDS patients. At various schools educational activities were ongoing. There were classes in sewing, commerce, and handicraft. Sisters made prison visits, helped families, taught catechism classes, and Sunday School with activities are centered around Catholic action groups.

Missionaries of Charity encompassed Missionary Brothers of Charity and had additional houses established all over India.  There are international houses which presently exist in many areas of the world. These could be found in Bangladesh, Northern Ireland, the Gaza Strip, Yemen, Ethiopia, Sicily, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Panama, Japan, Portugal, Brazil, Burundi, England, USA, USSR, South Africa, and in Eastern Europe.

Chawla did much traveling to keep up with Mother Teresa’s activities, carefully described her many ventures and difficulties in establishing such homes. It started with her desire to live with the poor to understand them as equals. With an experience of the first woman who she picked up years ago lying on a street of Calcutta, her face eaten by ants and rats, she observed such a person was the abandoned Christ.

After years of dedicated service to “the poorest of the poor,” she laid ailing and millions prayed for her recovery and she came back from the precipice of death. But on September 5, 1997, a few days after her 87th birthday, she went home to be with her God. Before she died, on March 13, 1997, the Missionaries of Charity elected Sister Nirmala to be the new Superior General. The Indian government honored her with a state funeral, and her coffin was on a gun carriage which once bore the bodies of Mahatma Ghandi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Chawla’s book has truly captured the spirit and life of this extraordinary woman who was declared Saint Teresa of Calcutta on September 4, 2016.

 

 

Syncing with Nature

My health is failing

But I have had a long and beautiful ride

This reality is the inevitable course of all life

For there’s a season for everything

Day follows night

While the seasons come and go

All these realities are reflected in one’s life.

 

At pivotal junctions my decline has been gradual

At 60 my doctor told me my kidneys were sluggish

This was around my birthday in the month of June

So I also celebrated this news with friends at an Italian restaurant

There began my first experience with chronic renal failure

And my determination to keep this disease at bay

 

Since then I was living with this affliction caused by Lithium

For over 15 years I’ve watched my lab work with concern

At times the results gave me hope that I wouldn’t need dialysis

But now it looks as though this would be the case.

 

I have no regrets for I have had a long ride doing what I enjoy

But the Universal Spirit knows best as I sync with nature

It looks as though by the time I get there I’ll be fully used up

For over the years I suffered with manic depression, high blood pressure,

Unitary Tract Infection, diabetes, glaucoma, macular degeneration,

And has been the recipient of a pacemaker

 

Frankly I don’t expect healing from the Universal Spirit

For I have been profoundly blessed in many unexpected ways

Over the years my physical decline has been gradual

And I have grappled with each health problem

With the challenges of living a sensible lifestyle

I pray for only good results from all suffering as I reflect

On the syncing process with nature

But only God really knows how soon my end will be.

 

Read my autobiography entitled, Life’s Passages: From Guyana to America available at amazon.com for further insights into my life.

 

The Baha’i Faith Beliefs

Baha’i teachings are a great deal like other monotheistic faiths.  They are centered on the following concepts:

  1. God is seen as single and all powerful.
  2. Religion is considered orderly and progressive as revealed by God through his manifestations.
  3. Emphasis is placed on the unity of all peoples, and the faith openly rejects racism, and nationalism.
  4. The principles that permeate are wrapped together in the unity of God, religion, and humanity.
  5. God’s will is often revealed through messengers with transforming characteristics with implications for people.
  6. God is viewed as omniscient, omnipresent, imperishable, and the Almighty Creator of all things.
  7. God’s greatness is beyond humans’ comprehension, but they understand Him through His Manifestations.
  8. It’s for Baha’i believers to learn about God through prayer, reflection, and service to others.
  9. Baha’i beliefs are often described as syncretic combinations of other faith traditions.
  10. Baha’i sees its faith as an independent world religion, and differing from other religions with the teachings of Bahaullah.
  11. Baha’i believes that human beings have a “rational soul” which allows individuals to recognize God as their Creator.
  12. It’s the duty of Baha’i followers to recognize God through his messengers, and conform to the faith’s teachings.
  13. At death a human’s soul is described as separating from the body to the next world where it is judged for its actions in the physical world.
  14. Humanity is viewed as essentially one with its diversity or race, and culture worthy of appreciation.
  15. Artificial impediments are considered as those based on the doctrines of racism, nationalism, caste, and gender-based hierarchy

Early African-American Experience

The soul within us is impervious to any sort of degradation.  It was Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), an African-American social reformer, and abolitionist who said, “The soul that is within me no man can degrade.”  But with the introduction of film in the United States African Americans were stereotyped.  The Flights of Nation (1907) depicted a lopsided and demented black culture.  D.W. Griffith (1875–1948) with The Birth of a Nation (1915) chronicled the story of the free South in the civil war that showed the revenge of the Ku Klux Klan on blacks.  This movie which was considered a masterpiece set the precedent of portraying blacks as idlers, brutish, vagabonds, and outcasts.

Role of Blacks

 It was Colin Powell (b. 1937), formerly secretary of state of the United States who said, “I think whether you’re having setbacks or not, the role of a leader is to always display a winning attitude.”  Early blacks never had the opportunity to display these traits because of racism, and society excluded them from holding important positions.

Other films showed the grizzled tramp in Jim Tully’s tale of the lowly Beggars of Life (1928), the seaman in James Craze’s Old Ironsides (1926), black roles in Showboat (1927), Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1927), and others in the early sound films like Dudley Murphy’s St Louis Blues (1929).  But some blacks played conventional roles as chorus girls, convicts, boxing trainers, ill-mannered servants, and persons of disrepute.

In the 1940s and 1950s, white actors Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll were the talent behind the popular radio show Amos ‘n’ Andy.  These two actors were masters in their imitation of the degrading dialogue most Americans associated with blacks.  These condescending techniques made for the popularity of the program.

Stereotypes

 Chinua Achebe (1930–2013), a Nigerian novelist, and poet wrote, “The whole idea of a stereotype is to simplify.  Instead of going through the problem of all this great diversity – that it’s this or maybe that – you have just one large statement, it is this.”

In the era of TV, white actors were replaced by blacks in Amos ‘n’ Andy and the show’s popularity continued.  Eventually the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was able to persuade Hollywood to abandon negative stereotypes of blacks in their films, and TV followed suit.  Such a decision didn’t produce changes overnight, but there was some progress being made.

Christianity & Race

 Many Christians have long been opposed to any form of racism.  Throughout history there have been a number of abolitionists in the United States and abroad.  The Gospel tells us that whether we are Jews or Gentiles God looks at our hearts.  People can’t hide their feelings.  Jesus Christ was forthright in warning the rich about the exploitation of the poor.  Many blacks belong to the lower class because of a past of slavery.

Although many Americans consider themselves Christian racism is still a problem in the society. The Christian faith reminds us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  The story of the Good Samaritan is alive and well for everyone to take note.  In the 1960s with prayers, sacrifice, and dedication, and social change the Civil Rights era began impacting these wrongs that were degrading our society.  And in today’s culture some remnants of the past are still apparent.

Zoroastrian Theology

Zoroastrian Theology’s salient principles cover the gamut of his teachings.  This summary reflects his religious beliefs that range from God’s guardianship, purity, health care, charity, virtue, nature, and the immortality of the soul.

  1. Much of the Zoroastrian theology is directed towards the protection of mankind to fight against Angro Mainyus and his wicked accomplices.
  2. Careful instructions are given concerning the care, and burial of the dead.
  3. Purity is stressed. Information is given about germs, and the preservation of public health.  This also concerns the good thoughts, words, and works.  The purification of one’s body was essential, as well as that of the corporeal world.
  4. Believers learn about the commands to cultivate the soil, irrigate the land, and care for livestock.
  5. Strict ordinances are meted out for the care and welfare of women during gestation, and child birth.
  6. Two attributes were seen as inherent in men and women – “Vohumana” (Good Mind), and “Akamana” (Evil Mind). This moral philosophy is expressed in these expressive words – “Humata” (good thoughts), “Hukhta” (good words), and “Hvarshta” (good deeds).
  7. Zoroaster considers as wise the distribution of charities to the sorrowful, and to those with untold miseries.
  8. Marriage is recommended because it leads to a religious and virtuous life.
  9. Chastity and implicit obedience from a wife to her husband are viewed as the greatest virtues in a woman. This breach will be punished as a sin.
  10. Great tolerance is shown in passing judgment on the religious beliefs of others.
  11. Abortion is a grave sin when a partner or parents attempt to hide the shame from the world.
  12. Zoroaster placed the whole creation under the guardianship of God, and six “Ameshaspends” (archangels). These are mystical guardian spirits who work night and day for the welfare and protection of the creation that are committed to their charge by the Almighty.  These archangels are responsible viz., for domestic animals and birds; fire and life-giving heat; all kinds of metals and minerals; injunctions to keep the earth fruitful, clean, and cultivated; the purity of water and water-courses; and trees and vegetation.  These duties are done through the assistance of Yazats (angels), who police and guard the earth night and day against the encroachments of Angro Mainyus (Evil Spirit).
  13. Special legislation is laid down for the treatment of the lower animals, the elimination of pain, and unnecessary suffering.
  14. Unlike other religions Zoroaster condemns fasting or the total abstinence from food as foolish and injurious to the body.
  15. Zoroastrianism gives evidence to the great belief of immorality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body. At the Great Gathering everyone will be judged, the battle will end, and the Evil Spirit will no longer have power to play man as a pawn.  And there will be everlasting peace and happiness.

Ten Sikh Gurus

Gurus were originally teachers and parents, but Sikhs came to rely on them for spiritual guidance.  As Sikh’s gurus they were not only considered spiritual guides, but also community leaders.  Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism sought to redefine who a guru really was.  To him an authentic guru works for an honest living, and gives to the poor.  Sikh’s ten gurus are as follows:

  1. Guru Nanak (1469–1539), was the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. His birth is celebrated worldwide as Guru Nanak Gurpurab on Kartik Pooranmashi, the full-moon day in the month of Katak, October–November.
  2. Guru Angad (1504–1552), was the second of the ten Sikh gurus. He was born in a Hindu family, with the birth name as Lehna, in the village of Harike in northwest Indian subcontinent.
  3. Guru Amar Das (1479–1574), was the third of the ten Gurus of Sikhism, and became Sikh Guru on March 26, 1552 at age 73. Before becoming a Sikh, Amar Das had adhered to the Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism for much of his life.
  4. Guru Ram Das (1534–1581), was the fourth of the ten Gurus of Sikhism. He was born on September 24, 1534 in a poor Hindu family based in Lahore, part of what is now Pakistan. His birth name was Jetha.
  5. Guru Arjan (1563–1606), was the first of the two Gurus martyred in the Sikh faith, and the fifth of the ten total Sikh Gurus. He compiled the first official edition of the Sikh scripture called the Adi Granth, which later expanded into the Guru Granth Sahib.
  6. Guru Hargobind (1595–1644), revered as the sixth Nanak, was the sixth of ten Gurus of the Sikh religion. He had become Guru at the young age of eleven, after the execution of his father, Guru Arjan, by the Mughal emperor Jahangir.
  7. Guru Har Rai (1630–1661), Guru Har Rai revered as the seventh Nanak, was the seventh of ten Gurus of the Sikh religion. He became the Sikh leader at age 14, on March 8, 1644, after the death of his grandfather and sixth Sikh leader Guru Hargobind.
  8. Guru Har Krishan (1656–1664), was the eighth of the ten Sikh Gurus. At the age of five, he became the youngest Guru in Sikhism on October 7, 1661, succeeding his father, Guru Har Rai. He contracted smallpox and died of the disease in 1664 before reaching his eighth birthday.
  9. Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621–1675), was the ninth of ten Gurus of the Sikh religion. Tegh Bahadur continued in the spirit of the first guru, Nanak; his 116 poetic hymns are registered in Guru Granth Sahib.
  10. Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708), born Gobind Rai, was the tenth Sikh Guru, a spiritual master, warrior, poet and philosopher. When his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam, he was formally installed as the leader of the Sikhs at age nine.

The Sikh’s sacred scripture rests with the authority of Adi Granth (Guru Granth Sahib).  This influence was passed down on the death of the tenth Guru Gobind Singh, through whom it was declared the spirit of all the gurus.  So Sikhs venerate Guru Granth Shib in the Khalsa (community).  For only through this Guru’s teaching may devotees achieve union with God.

Gift in a Storm

Food and shelter are two important gifts.  People need these basic gifts to survive.  Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973), an Italian and prominent fashion designer said, “Eating is not merely a material pleasure.  Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship.  It is of great importance to the morale.”  Food like shelter gives us confidence.  They are inspirational and morale boosters.  It’s not only about eating and having a home – it’s about having the right kind of food and shelter. Many of the poor are unable to appreciate these gifts in our society with an overabundance.  All should share food that supports life.  St. Teresa (1910–1997), a Roman Catholic religious sister and missionary wrote, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  Undoubtedly the person you feed may be able to live a successful life.

Gifts of Food

There are amazing ways to view food.  Louise Fresco (b. 1952), a Dutch scientist, and director said, “Food in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy.  It’s not about nutrients and calories.  It’s about sharing.  It’s about honesty.  It’s about identity.”  Food could be a miracle worker.  It touches lives, shares joy, and celebrates special moments.  That’s why Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), a German composer wrote, “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”  It takes talent and perseverance to serve up the right type.

As believers we must endeavor to help others by giving food.  These gifts could take a variety of forms, and might literally make us become better people.  Joseph Wooden (1910–2010), a basketball player said, “Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books – especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks to your blessings and pray for guidance every day.”  It isn’t only for food we must pray, but for shelter on rainy days.  We should do our best to help the disadvantaged, and the homeless.

The Basic Necessities

Even if we have the basic necessities that won’t mean we wouldn’t be tested with storms in our lives.  Dalai Lama (b. 1935), a monk and 14th Dalai Lama wrote, “Even when a person has all of life’s comforts – good food, good shelter, a companion – he or she can still become unhappy when encountering a tragic situation.”  Tragedy doesn’t discriminate, it happens to everyone, and we must spiritually prepare to handle such misfortunes.

Having a good heart could invoke our compassion to be sensitive about God’s creation.  This could be a gift for how we treat our brothers and sisters.  Francis of Assisi (1118/1182–1226), an Italian Roman Catholic friar and preacher said, “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”  Whether animals we raise for food, used in sports, or pass unnoticed – our actions relate how well we would treat people.

The Storms of Life

So during the storms of life we must stand side by side with the afflicted to give them support.  We must show we really care, ensure they have food, and provide shelter.  Anne Graham Lotz (b. 1948), a Christian evangelist wrote,  “When the storms of life come, if they come to me personally, to my family or to the world, I want to be strong enough to stand and be a strength to somebody else, be shelter for somebody.”  Lotz vividly captured what being a gift to those embroiled in such a storm should be.

Love by Serving

In life it’s delightful to live simply and share our gifts with others.  That’s how we can capture the dignity of living fulfilled lives.  Life is all about faithful service, and understanding differences in cultures.   We’ll love God more, and capture the truth about love.  Our affection will then become the basis of biblical promises to the world.  Saint Teresa of Calcutta (1910–1997), a Roman Catholic religious sister and missionary said, “Let us meet each other with [a] smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”  In simple ways people take cues from believers.

The Road in Life

By living godly lives there’s a surge of new life.  In their daily walk believers express this blessing.  Their demeanor shows the embodiment of the gifts of a merciful God.  This sort of love is effective for it brings about healing, doesn’t discriminate, nor makes distinctions.  It’s through such caring bridges are built in our world.  These are the visual signs of God working within and through us.  God’s love is nurturing and ever-watchful as we travel along our spiritual journey.  But there’s another way to determine love’s effectiveness.  Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968), a Baptist minister, and activist wrote, “A genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus.”  It’s for believers to meet people where they are, and bring them along the path of righteousness.   

 Kingdom of Life

It isn’t enough to be a lover of life, for such people may be selfish in their desires.  It’s unwise to be self-centered in living without God.  News about God mustn’t be buried, but proclaimed in building confidence in the world.  To know God’s glory people have to be creators in showing others love.  Ralph Ellison (1914–1994), a novelist and literary critic said, “If the word has the potency to revive and make us free, it has also the power to blind, imprison and destroy.”  There’s a difference between “worldly” and “spiritual” love.  Unlike “worldly love,” the “spiritual” enlightens our hearts and minds.

Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), an Irish playwright, and novelist wrote, “Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and to do more.”  Believers could only attain these gifts through prayer and dedication to their communities.

 Being Compassionate

It’s best to be compassionate.  One of the ways that believers can accomplish this is by interacting with the people they encounter.  It’s the way we treat them that matters.  By being kind we share in God’s love to our colleagues.  Muhammad Ali (1942–2016), a former professional boxer said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”  If people believed they must serve as a way to pay back a debt, this world would be a better place.  They wouldn’t be so self-centered, but would see themselves as guardians on our planet.  To accomplish these goals mean we have to walk in love by serving others.